Ronald Rael is an Architect, Author and Assistant Professor of Architecture at The University of California, Berkeley. He is the founder of EarthArchitecture.org, a clearing house of information on the subject. In his book titled, Earth Architecture, Rael provides a history of building with “dirt” in the modern era. His primary focus is on projects constructed in the last few decades that used building techniques such as rammed earth, mud brick, compressed earth, and cob. Earth Architecture showcases more than 40 projects that will inspire any designer to find new and creative uses for the oldest building material on earth.
THE CENTER FOR THE BLIND – Taller de Architectura Maruicio Rocha – Mexico City, Mexico – 2000
This is another space that got my attention. The rill runs the length of the main plaza at The Center for the Blind allowing users to navigate the space with the sound of bubbling water.
LOW COMPOUND – Jones Studio – Scotsdale, Arizona – 1997
“Called ‘The Dirt House’ by neighbors, the Low Compound is a single-family residence whose functions are housed in several buildings, making the 7800 feet of space feel more intimate.” The landscape has a pool that acts as a natural air conditioner. It sits next to a massive rammed earth wall. This image stood out to me because of the mood the reflective qualities the pool has at night.
ROSIE JOE HOUSE – Design Build BLUFF – Red Mesa Chapter, Navajo Nation, Utah – 2004
Design Build BLUFF is a semester long course at the University of Utah’s College of Architecture and Planning. The course focuses on providing housing for families with unique needs. This project is one of my favorite from the book. The roof structure not only catches water for domestic use, it is also calibrated to respond to the position of the sun throughout the year. The home is powered by photovoltaic panels and propane.
The drawings on the left illustrate how water collected from the roof is diverted into a cistern and how the roof’s design responds to seasonal solar angles.
The book is available through the Land8 Bookstore.
By Ronald Rael
Princeton Architectural Press, 2008